Digital Workspaces of the Future: Industry Insights #KMWorld


Speakers: Clint Patterson, Senior Solution Consultant, Simpplr; Dave Dumler, Head of Product Marketing, Panopto; Eric Storm, VP, North America, Starmind; and Sarah Dobson, New Business Account Manager, Starmind

Session Description: Using real-world examples, our industry leaders share how their KM solutions are driving smarter, better business interactions with top-notch knowledge flows in their client organizations. Storm from Starmind shares how unlocking employees’ collective intelligence and expertise at Accenture and SwissRe supercharges productivity, innovation and career development. Patterson discusses engaging employees and aligning knowledge management with an intranet so that content is organized, well structured and connects employees across the organization. He shares how Flexcare Medical Staffing, a nationwide leader in travel nursing and allied staffing services for top healthcare facilities, developed an intranet content management strategy to engage and align the workforce. Dumler discusses why is video now an essential ingredient for the future of knowledge worker productivity. While we may be relying heavily on video conferencing for live communication today, Dumler shares why video conferencing alone won’t be enough to achieve long term goals. He highlights how a number of notable organizations are achieving higher productivity and lower communication costs by creating and sharing on-demand video for training, meetings, and communication.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld Connect 2020 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


One of the key features of an industry conference is the Exhibit Hall. While KMWorld does offer a virtual Exhibit Hall this week, they also provided sessions in which key sponsors could explain and demonstrate their products. This session features some of KMWorld’s platinum sponsors.

Starmind – Identify Experts and Capabilities through AI

  • Expertise location is critical
    • The average Fortune 500 Company spends $500M annually on technology. And they spend a comparable amount on upskilling and reskilling their employees. In addition, these organizations spend billions on digital transformation efforts.
    • Organizations develop silos to make work in a large organization manageable. These silos can be expertise-based, geographic, cultural, etc.
    • Although people feel they are constantly connected, they actually are primarily connected within only their own micro-silos. They do not have sufficient connection across the organization. They don’t know who else is out there or what those colleagues know.
    • Expertise location is critical for organizational success. Remember: while Kodak had some key patents for digital photography, they did not have the necessary internal expertise to take the technology to market.
    • Starmind uses AI to surface experts and expertise and then connects them with colleagues in need.
  • PepsiCo Case Study:
    • Institutional knowledge rarely is held by the institution itself. Usually, it is in the heads of a handful of long-term or wise colleagues. PepsiCo viewed this knowledge as critical but did not have faith in analog knowledge management techniques to retrieve and share the knowledge.
    • Hard Knowledge = what PepsiCo calls documented knowledge
    • Soft Knowledge = what PepsiCo calls knowledge that lives inside the heads of your brilliant colleagues [tacit knowledge]
    • PepsiCo uses Starmind to “data mine” their Soft Knowledge
  • How Starmind works
    • Builds and maintains automated, real-time, updated skill profiles
    • Learns company jargon, concepts and terms
    • Learns sources of expertise and patterns of query response
    • Is able to route queries to the right expert

Panopto – Being Prepared for the Future Communication Needs of Your Organization

  • What’s happening in workplace trends?
    • In 2018, Gartner reported that within four years only 25% of meetings would occur in person.
    • Before the pandemic, 30% of workers worked remotely. During the pandemic, 60% work remotely.
    • Gartner believes that even after the pandemic is over, 48% will be working remotely
    • At the beginning of 2020, most organizations were not prepared to support widespread remote working. This is despite the fact that remote working was already pretty significant and likely to rise. (See Gartner report above.)
  • The University of Washington was better prepared than most. Before the pandemic they already had in place the key tools required to support remote work.
    • Necessary tools: asynchronous tools (e.g., email, documentation, text-based tools, etc.) and synchronous tools (e.g., chat and video conferencing).
    • New tool: recorded video (e.g., Panopto) bridges the gap between text-based communication and video.
  • How Recorded Video is useful
    • Forrester: “1 minute of video is worth 1.8M words.”
    • Employees are also recording their video conferences. This yields a “document” that helps participants remember (and others learn) what was discussed and agreed to.
      • 20 minutes after a meeting has ended, participants have retained only 58% of the meeting’s content.
    • Videos enhanced by search allow workers to find and retrieve critical knowledge quickly.
  • Client experience
    • Synaptics found that recorded video helped them save 7000 hours over the course of one year.
    • Qualcomm’s Wireless Academy enables engineers to use training videos after the training session is over as easily retrieved technical documents.
    • PerkinsCoie uses recorded video to keep their lawyers updated on changes in the law.


  • The Reality of Intranets
    • Gartner finds that 90% of intranets fail to achieve their goals
    • Forrester ranks intranets lowest on the satisfaction scale
    • Top 10 reasons intranets fail
      • Process Related
        • Process governance
        • Unclear purpose
        • Unengaged executives
      • Feature Related
        • Poor use experience
        • Stale, outdated content
        • Not personalized
        • Multiple sources of truth
        • Technical resource dependency
        • Search didn’t work
        • Failed deployment
  • Simpplr:
    • Simpplr is AI-powered in the background to make the intranet more efficient
    • In the Forrester Wave, Simpplr is in the leader wave — and it is the only buy (vs build) option offered in that category
  • Auto-governance: They have created an auto-governance feature that enables the system to automatically flag out-of-date content and remove it if the user does not take any action when the flag appears.

Keynote: Revolutionizing KM with AI & Document Understanding #KMWorld


Speaker: Paul Nelson, Innovation Lead, Search & Content Analytics, Accenture

Session Description: Intelligent document understanding is drastically changing the search and knowledge management landscape thanks to AI technologies. As 80% of all enterprise data is unstructured, document understanding delivers tangible benefits across industries and business functions saving time, money and resources. Paul highlights how one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies leveraged this solution, along with innovative AI technologies and assets, to automate KM for the purpose of detecting sensitive IP within unstructured enterprise content. He shares how this solution is helping other clients, including Accenture, to improve compliance and risk management, increase operational efficiencies, and enhance business processes.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld Connect 2020 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • He will focus on the three practical KM scenarios to make abstract AI real
  • Scenario #1: Customer Support — we started with individual customer support representatives who use their knowledge to respond to customer request, then we documented the usual queries and responses (FAQs), then we added some search for efficiency. But as the system scaled, we needed a document management system to organize all then content. Then, we superimposed AI to monitor data streams, summarize the patterns, and determine what topics should be addressed by technical writers and included in the document management system. But, with the advent of a new neural network (GPT-3), which can recognize new tokens, now we can replace a technical writer by a robot writer to create a fully automated customer support system.
  • Scenario #2: Research Reports — initially we relied on individual researchers to run tests and produce research reports. But sometimes, this resulted in duplication. So we interposed a gatekeeper who received research requests, checked to see if the work has already been done, and then either distributed the earlier report or commissioned a new report. Now, a robot can replace the gatekeeper. It can understand the incoming request, search the database, understand the content of the research reports, and send the appropriate responsive report — even if it contains words that are different from those in the initial request.
  • Scenario #3: Proposal Writing — how do you respond to RFPs or RFIs? No one person knows enough to respond to the entire proposal request by themselves. Currently, various experts complete the section of the proposal related to their expertise. To increase efficiency, we have tried to create templates and snippets that can be used as necessary. Now, the proposal writing is happening in collaborative sites. And key sections are tagged with relevant data. Going further, you can slice and dice the sections into Semantic pieces that can be sent into a semantic search of a neural network to find relevant information that can be reused automatically. Further, the search can identify cross-correlations, which will find the pieces that usually go together for a specific kind of proposal. After the proposal has been assembled and sent to the potential customer, the system can use cross-correlation between the proposals and the CRM system to determine which proposals were successful and which were not.
  • Closing Remarks
    • AI is more than just classification and entity extraction
      • It can find new topics
      • It can connect content by meaning — Semantic Search
      • It can evaluate content quality
      • It can summarize and rewrite
    • Successful projects will improve existing knowledge flow
      • [This is similar to the old KM adage: pave the cow paths]
      • Don’t fight the existing process. Instead, work within it.
    • Successful projects will include targeted AI
      • Focus on solving the problems you can solve today via AI
      • Gather the data you need to solve the problems of the future
    • You still need a great search engine
      • The results of AI feed and enhance the search engine
      • Search engines are the only way to scale

Keynote: Not Knowing #KMWorld


Speaker: David Weinberger, Author, Everything is Miscellaneous, Too Big to Know & his latest, Everyday Chaos: Technology, Complexity, & How We’re Thriving in a New World of Possibility

Session Description: How We’re Thriving in a New World of Possibility Through stories from history, business, and technology, philosopher and technologist David Weinberger finds the unifying truths lying below the surface of the tools we take for granted–and a future in which our best strategy often requires holding back from anticipating and instead creating as many possibilities as we can. As a long-time KMWorld magazine columnist, Weinberger has often shared his views of knowledge flows and knowledge sharing as well as the technologies enabling transformation. In this talk, he helps us understand the possibilities that machine learning and other forms of AI are creating and how to harness the power of these breakthroughs to improve knowledge flows in our organizations.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld Connect 2020 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Dominant technology forms us. The Net conditioned us to chaos. AI now shows a way to make sense of the chaos.
  • The Internet
    • Before the Internet, most of us followed the “paleolithic” strategy: You plan for a future event and then take action.
    • The Internet Effect — For the first 19 years of production, Henry Ford sold the Model-T car without making many visible changes. He anticipated his customers’ needs so well, he did not need to change his product. By contrast, Dropbox launched with a minimal viable product and committed to make as many changes as dictated by the market. Dropbox did not anticipate the future and prepare for it the way Henry Ford did. Rather, Dropbox simply followed its customers.
      • The iPhone launched with a basic phone. The key to future sales was the App Store, which allowed others to increase the functionality of the phone.
      • Minecraft similarly allowed others to extend the game in new, and sometimes unexpected, directions.
    • The Internet is built on the principle of interoperability. So that allows an enormous number of unpredictable possibilities.
    • The final results could never have been anticipated by the originators of the tool. In fact, they didn’t want to anticipate. They wanted to watch and learn.
  • Two Opposing Strategies
    • The paleolithic strategy assumes that the future has an immense number of possibilities and our best approach is to narrow our options, choose our path, plan and act.
    • By contrast, the post-Internet environment is about widening the possibilities in the future. So you start narrowly and then enable a broadening of options in unpredictable ways.
    • The impact of abandoning the paleolithic strategy is that we have organized our lives to make life more unpredictable.
  • Machine Learning
    • Machine Learning — gives us a way of understanding the chaos we have created.
    • Traditional programming asks a developer to predict the relevant factors and then implement the logical relationships among these factors using code.
    • Machine learning consumes the data (the underlying factors) but is not given the logic regarding the relationships among the data. Instead, the machine iterates until it surfaces relationships. [This leads to results beyond the knowledge or planning of the developer.]
  • The Black Box Problem
    • The earth itself is a black box. We don’t fully understand how it works.
    • That said, while we cannot understand how a black box system made a decision, we can test that decision to determine how correct those decisions prove to be.
    • The natural state of machine learning is to be a black box. This is a problem because machine learning systems are based on data from a culture or an organization. These data reproduce the biases in that culture or organization and then machine learning amplifies those biases. Unfortunately, this process is hidden from our view because of the black box nature of machine learning.
    • The black box nature of machine learning is resulting in a moral panic because “We don’t know how it works!” But the deeper anxiety is that “It works!” It produces results beyond anything humans can produce. Machine learning systems work in such incredibly complex ways that we cannot replicate without machines.
    • Our brains made machine learning systems but our brains are insufficient to comprehend our creatures and their work.
  • Five Ways We Can Respond.
    • #1. Strategies are outdated.
      • Plato was the first to separate strategy and tactics. Tactics were comparable to what we call logistics. Strategy is more like improv or making music.
      • They require some stability for planning and execution. In an environment of unpredictability, strategy is less effective. For example, look at The Black Swan and Rita Gunther McGrath’s work that tell us that strategies are too broad and lead us away from a more productive, narrower focus. So we need to shift our thinking to a Minimum Viable Strategy, which is the minimal amount of planning necessary to allocate our resources sensibly.
    • #2. Rethink Corporate Knowledge Flows.
      • Corporate hierarchies were created to filter information until the ultimate decision maker had just the right information to make the right decision. Therefore, people lower down in the organization spend their time discarding whatever they consider to be irrelevant information. With the current explosion of information, this means that they need to ramp up their exclusion tactics and may, in the process, throw out valuable information.
    • #3. It takes a Network to Make Sense.
      • The smarter approach is to set up a series of sensors who are able to notice and report on butterflies (the key insights that are valuable). The wider and more open the network, the more effective it is. They also need to be rewarded.
    • #4. Make more possible.
      • Increase open source and access. Increase the opportunities for learning in public. Make it interoperable.
    • #5. Reify Knowledge.
      • To reify is to make something abstract more concrete or real.
      • Reify knowledge means “turn knowledge into a thing.” Although everything is constantly changing, we have believed that there are universal laws that govern and survive. This is where truth resides.
      • Now truth resides in linked open data.
      • Models are the new Body of Knowledge.
        • Traditionally, knowledge is content. But a software program is not content. AI models are not representations (in the same way) of knowledge. They learn by being used. This is new for a body of knowledge — it is a body of knowledge that can “eat” and grow.
        • Before machine learning, a body of knowledge (a domain) could only be extended by human effort.
        • There a price to this efficiency. We may end up reifying bias. Because a body of knowledge becomes a thing, it can be owned. And accessed can be limited or made expensive.
  • Chaos is the Truth.

Leveraging KM, Collaboration, & Communication Techniques in the Virtual World: Optimizing Virtual Work Hubs #KMWorld


Speakers: Kim Glover, Director, Innovative Learning & Knowledge Mgmt., TechnipFMC; and Tamara Viles, Innovative Learning & KM Program Manager, TechnipFMC

Session Description: A few months ago, we thought the virtual workplace was a bullet train. But the COVID-19 crisis has upgraded our journey from bullet train to supersonic jet. Working optimally in the virtual environment went from being a nice to have to an absolute must. This session addresses head-on the challenges of working virtually, including trust and communication issues, isolation, variable productivity, and accountability, and provides practical and creative techniques for addressing the challenges so that teams cannot just survive but thrive in the virtual environment. It shares specific and candid examples that leverage KM, collaboration best practices, and communications tools and techniques to help remote teams ensure productivity, stay connected, build trust, and safeguard business continuity. Take home immediately implementable strategies for leading a strong, productive team in the new virtual work world, whether to lead a team, a project, or just your own self-directed work.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld Connect 2020 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • 2020 Realities — this year, the Learning & KM team at TechnipFMC had to pivot to focus on how to optimize virtual work.
    • Their organization wants virtual EVERYTHING.
    • Learning & Knowledge are viewed as “first responders” within the organization.
    • They are seeing increased partnerships with back-office functions (legal, communications, finance, etc.)
    • Given the increased demand, the Learning & Knowledge team could not serve each internal customer individually. Instead, the team focused on “teaching people how to fish.”
    • “Knowledge is the currency, and virtual is the exchange system”
  • Tips for Leading Virtual Teams
    • Provide more structure and co-create rules. Keep focused on the things that enable effective work.
    • Establish consistent practices.
    • When developing metrics, focus on results rather than standard operating procedures.
    • Mitigate ambiguity (and anxiety) by explaining the big picture, as well as individual roles and why they matter
  • How to establish structure and rules
    • Over-communicate, elaborate and anticipate needs
    • Create a team charter collectively with your team.
      • This process will create energy and focus. The content varies from team to team. At a minimum, it should cover team goals, values, and expectations.
    • Make sure your charter includes communications expectations when the team is working virtually.
  • Cultivate accountability through visibility
    • Performance
      • Virtual team members needs to take more responsibility to meet deadlines so accountability is critical
      • Set expectations and define success clearly
      • Use results-based metrics
    • Trust
      • Trust elevates team performance — a team that trusts is less anxious and more productive
      • Task-based trust is vital to virtual teams
    • Signs of low trust
      • silos within sub-groups
      • low credibility in the commitments of others
      • virtual leader or other team members micromanage
      • low productivity or missed deadlines
      • open negativity
      • unresolved conflicts
      • information hoarding
    • Ways to increase visibility, accountability, and trust
      • Use dashboards to increase transparency
      • Use a Kanban board or another tool to share what you are working on
      • Use a daily huddle in which each team member discusses what worked yesterday, and what they are focused on today.
      • Use alternative tools to increase knowledge-sharing and fun. Kahoot is a great example of such a tool.
      • Keep your calendars open to your team (including your personal appointments). This helps team members get to know the “whole” you.
    • Increased communication
      • Increased communication reduces anxiety and isolation
      • Connect with your teams 3 times more than you would when co-located
      • Establish regular team meetings
      • Team leaders need to be even more visible and accessible
      • Use one-on-one meetings to keep abreast of work progress and to check on well-being. Being on camera is critical for this.
      • Use the chat function for informal check ins
      • Ask for feedback — try survey tools or just simple conversation
      • Managing conflict is more important — the physical distance can make it more difficult to interpret tone/mood and also can make it easier to ignore issues that are brewing
      • Try virtual coffees and happy hours to keep team spirit alive.
      • Start the virtual practice of “popping your head in the door” by which team members can ask a quick question that will get immediate response.
      • Keep a blog to motivate the team.
    • Foster Community
      • Communities create a sense of belonging, increased trust
      • Virtual water coolers — allow social chat
      • Virtual ceremonies — help you celebrate wins and acknowledge successes
      • Encourage team members to share their own stories
      • Ice breakers help team members learn more about each other
      • Open calendars give more information about team members
      • Identify and share leadership opportunities
      • Have a team nickname
    • Additional Activities
      • Team Workshop on Leading a Team Through Adversity:
        • Start by showing the common challenges of 2020.
        • Then ask individuals how they are responding and rising to the challenges.
        • Finally, play the UNESCO video, The Next Normal.
      • Use a canvas-based tool to build your team charter
      • Ask team members to take a virtual leadership self-assessment. They don’t need to broadcast their scores. But they should use the exercise as an opportunity for self-awareness and reflection.
    • How to have a better virtual meeting
      • use avatars for team members who aren’t physically present
      • schedule consistent team meetings but rotate time zones
      • assign roles and start with a roll call
      • send agendas and materials in advance
      • send questions in advance so that introverts can “pre-ponder” them and respond in writing if they prefer
      • use a “round robin” to develop understanding and consensus
      • everyone should “be on camera” and limit distractions (to prevent multitasking and enable people to “look each other in the eye”
      • make sure all team members know how to use the communications technology and ensure that it works well across all geographies


Creative & Agile Techniques to Facilitate Change #KMWorld


Speakers: Felicity McNish, Global Knowledge Management Leader, Aurecon; and Sue Stewart, Global Knowledge Culture Leader, Aurecon

Session Description: Change is not one size fits all; it’s dependent and interdependent on the environment, the market, the organization, the strategy, the culture and the individuals involved to be prescribed in a cast-iron process. Compounding the change challenge are the constraints of time, resources, budget, client commitments, motivation, leadership expectations, and, in some cases, pandemics. Irrespective, there are constants; people need a clear purpose for change, the motivation to support, the knowledge to understand, the tools to act, and the reinforcement to sustain. And the change approach needs to be adaptive and responsive to the needs of both the people and the organization. Speakers discuss the critical factors for sustained change and share practical and creative approaches, fusing together elements of change theory with psychology, communication, marketing, advertising, branding, storytelling, and good old-fashioned manners. They share their experiences and outcomes implementing cultural, knowledge, and operational and technical transformations in different organizations over the last 20 years.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld Connect 2020 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Audience Poll: What’s the greatest obstacle to success in your organization?
    • Organizational Culture
    • Too much change or lack of prioritization
    • Lack of leadership by sponsors
  • This presentation is not intended to be a “how to” discussion. Rather, it focuses on “what is possible.”
  • Case Studies: The presenters have been working together for 20 years. They will be presenting stories and lessons from where they have worked: Woods Bagot, Unispace, and Aurecon.
  • Creativity
    • Creativity is critical to change because it helps you focus on what is not yet but might be someday.
    • See Tina Selig video that lays out the key elements of the creative approach to change
    • Attitude – make sure that your attitude has a positive impact on the people affected by the change. You will need to design and stage their experience.
      • Understand and listen to the people you are working with. Ask them to tell stories about themselves: tell us about yourself and your family, where you work, your best and worst change experience, and your superpower.
      • Show your appreciation to the people working with you by showing up prepared, thanking them during the session, and following up with thanks after the session.
      • Failure is data — use failure as an opportunity to collect data on what worked and what didn’t work. Don’t lose sight of the small victories — even in the midst of failures. Look for the bright spots.
    • Imagination
      • Chindogu — a Japanese term for coming up with useless ideas. Why bother? Because it cranks your brain into gear.
      • Use warm-up cards with provocative questions that help participants begin to think more creatively about connecting critical knowledge.
      • As you ideate, identify what must happen, what should happen, and what absolutely won’t be acceptable.
    • Knowledge — you can’t be creative without knowledge about the area / problem / opportunity you are trying to address
      • Going in prepared helps prevent a bad experience. “A single negative experience has four or five times greater impact than a single positive one.”
      • MLP not MVP — instead of focusing on minimal viable product, focus on delivering the minimal LOVABLE product.
    • Habitat / Environment
      • Create a warm, welcoming, FUN environment.
    • Culture
      • Edgar Schein’s model explains how culture forms and is maintained: artefacts < espoused values < underlying assumptions. The artefacts are the things and behaviors you see. They are based on harder-to-see values and assumptions.
    • Resources
      • Allies — when resources are constrained, identify and work with allies across the organization
      • Innovate with what you’ve got
  • Agile — enables innovation without sacrificing reliability
    • Team
      • Stable teams outperform temporary teams
      • Recruit T-shaped team members who have or can build relationships across the business. Stay away from Lone Stars
    • Time
      • Time is has two elements: the time spent working on the innovation PLUS the time spent waiting for others
      • Understand that people need time to learn and embrace change. Further, that learning time will be a period of reduced productivity, which can be exhausting.
      • Make sure people have some recovery time so that they can absorb and integrate the learning.
    • Attention — they use three key elements to capture attention in an 8-second era
      • Engage with stories
      • Anticipate the needs
      • Show the return
      • Use Images — still photos and video
      • explain things using the same visuals every time
    • Barriers
      • You do not need to be a scrum master. It is more about mindset.
      • Address the elephant in the room such as lack of budget or abundance of bureaucracy.
      • Understand your sponsors: What are they looking for? What is their ability to actual lead through this change?
  • Recommended Resource: Jason Fox, The Game Changer


Keynote: The Disrupted Mindset #KMWorld


Speaker: Charlene Li, Analyst & Author, The Disruption Mindset: Why Some Businesses Transform While Others Fail

Session Description: Growth is always hard, and disruptive growth is exponentially harder. It requires companies to make tough decisions in the face of daunting uncertainties. Some organizations beat the odds and succeed at becoming disruptive: Adobe, ING Bank, Nokia, Southern New Hampshire University, and T-Mobile, among them. Their stories make it clear that organizations don”t have to be tech start-ups or have the latest innovations to transform. What they need to do is develop a disruptive mindset that permeates every aspect of the organization. Li lays out how to do so by focusing on three elements. A strategy designed to meet the needs of future customers; leadership that creates a movement to drive and sustain transformation’ and a culture that thrives on disruptive change. Drawing on interviews with some of the most audacious people driving disruptive transformation today, Li will inspire leaders at all levels to answer the call to lead disruptive transformation in their organizations, communities, and society.

[These are my notes from the KMWorld Connect 2020 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Disruption is an opportunity for change — and it’s an opportunity for growth. The needs of our customers and clients don’t go away although they definitely change. When things are going well, people tend to disrupt and innovate less. However, when times are bad then time is ripe for disruption.
    • Microsoft was formed during the oilshock recession in the 1970s
    • The iPod was launched just after the tech bubble burst
    • Uber was created during the global financial crisis of the last decade
  • The Disrupted or the Disruptive? Who are you going to be? There are only two choices.
  • Focus on People and Transformation — You must look beyond the technology. It isn’t just about the cool tools. It’s about finding new ways to use them to open new opportunities.
  • Focus on the Future — know where your customers are but, more importantly, figure out where they will be. (Wayne Gretzky: “Skate to where the puck will be.”)
    • In 2010, Adobe realized that the way they distributed their software via CD-Roms was not as efficient as using the cloud. However, their customers were perfectly happy with the current situation. In addition, their employees were perfectly happy serving customers using this model. Finally, as a publicly traded company, moving from software to the cloud would temporarily depress their revenue and ramp up their startup costs. Despite all of this, they moved forward. Even though their net income plummeted, the stock market rewarded them for being forward-thinking. This was due to the fact that Adobe did such a good job of explaining who their future customer was.
    • Lesson: Don’t get blinded by your beautiful, profitable customers. It is important not to be seduced by the ease of your current situation. You need to find and fall in love with your future customers.
    • Audience Poll: a small number of attendees are in organizations whose entire workforce is focused on their future customer. Only one quarter of attendees have a small group focused on figuring this out. A smaller group are not evenly slightly focused on their future customer.
  • Fall in Love with your Future Customers
    • Use Empathy Maps to Spark Curiosity — figure out who your future customer is. What do they think, feel, say, and do?
  • Put Future Customers in your Dashboards — once they are on your dashboard, they become a priority. This is an important signal to your team.
  • Connect your Customer-Obsessed People — wherever they are in the organization. They are the ones who are always seeing opportunities for greater service and sales to customers. This allows you to develop an organization-wide view of your future customer. And it gives your employees an opportunity to cross-fertilize innovation and disruption.
  • Leadership — as always, leadership is critical for success. The best leaders make you feel empowered, inspired, limitless.
  • Disruption Needs to be a Movement — movements take on a life of their own. They continue well beyond the life of the leader. (Heimans & Timms, New Power: “It’s only a movement if it moves without you.”) This happens when the leader constantly and consistently communicates their vision.
    • T-Mobile consciously decided to meet its future customers by becoming the “un-carrier,” the opposite of everything customers hated about the other mobile carriers. They began with a manifesto that fed the passion and directed the actions of T-Mobile personnel.
  • What is your Disruption Quotient? On a scale of 1-10, where 1=status quo and 10=disruptive, where are you? If you are on the low-end, you cling to the status quo. If you are on the high-end, you are naturally disruptive.
    • Note: the goal is not to be a 10 on this 1-10 scale. If you are a 3 and your organization is a 1, then you are a leader. If you are an 8 and your organization is a 10, then you are a laggard.
    • Audience poll: attendees say they are 6.2 out of 10, on average. However, they say that that their organizations are 5 out of 10 on average. This is close to the usual result where most people tend to believe they are approximately 1.5 points more disruptive than their organizations.
  • Shift your Culture to Support Disruption — if you want to change your organizational culture, you need to change your organizational beliefs.
    • Orange Bank created their “Orange Code” to drive cultural transformation:
      • You take it on and make it happen
      • You help others to be successful
      • You are always a step ahead
  • Three Beliefs of Disruptive Organizations:
    • Openness
    • Agency
    • Bias for Action
  • Openness — Openness in information sharing and transparency in decisions builds trust and accountability
    • According to the chairman of Nokia, Risto Siilasmaa, sharing is good. To make this clear, he had the following principles:
      • “No news is bad news. Bad news is good news. Good news is no news.”
  • Openness Best Practices
    • Create a safe and inclusive environment. It is hard to share if you do not feel safe. The first step is to make sure they believe
    • Put vital data where it can best be use. It is important to share as much information as possible, as widely as possible.
    • Breaking down silos may not be the best approach. They are important because they enable expertise. The better approach is to install windows in your silos.
  • Agency — This gives every employee the opportunity to act like an owner. (It is different from “empowered,” which relies on permission received from someone else.)
    • Sponsor agency in every employee
    • At Amazon, they have adopted the principle of ownership:
      • “Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say, ‘that’s not my job.’”
  • Best Practices for Agency
    • Demonstrate trust in their judgment — people will not act boldly if they are uncertain of your support.
    • Shift ownership and authority in chunks — give them what they need to act decisively.
    • Connect emerging leaders for peer support — it is hard for some employees to view themselves as owners — particularly if they feel as if they are acting alone.
  • Action – sometimes the thing that is holding you back is a critical bit of information. So you and your organization should identify and share the Minimally Viable Data required to take action.
    • Southern New Hampshire acquired the Daniel Webster University in FIVE days. They did this by developing a bias for action and distributing widely the necessary decision-making power. [Of course, this also requires tremendous trust in your team.]
  • Best Practices for Action
    • Develop Extrasensory Skills — invest in and develop your employees’ extrasensory skills to seek out growth.
    • Force decisions and action by imposing impossible deadlines. This requires decision making without complete information. [It acknowledges that despite our fondest wishes, we rarely have complete information. So this approach reduces analysis paralysis.]
    • Define the decision field — most decisions are reversible. So be clear about which decisions can be revisited safely and which ones need to be done right the first time.
    • Define your edges of action — if people don’t know what the edges are, they tend to stay in the center and avoid discomfort. So help your people understand how far they can go. Then they can push themselves to the edge and still feel safe.
  • What Beliefs Hold Us Back?
    • Some people believe that they need permission from someone else to make change,
    • Some people say that they don’t have the right role / position / title to make change,
    • Some people say that they do not have the budget / people / resources to make change. However, this is more a matter of priorities and allocation of resources. When do you set aside the urgent and focus on the important work of defining your future?
  • Comfort Zone is Danger Zone — during these turbulent times, it is very natural to want to stay within your comfort zone. However, that is a recipe for stagnation. Instead, push yourself to the edge of your comfort zone. This teaches you how much more you are capable of. “Look over the precipice and see what is there. Then take just one step back and operate there. Build the scaffolding within your organization to support you at that edge.”
    • “You don’t know how far you can go until you reach the edge.”
  • Charlene Li encourages us to be in touch with her. She would like to hear how we are figuring out how to stay at the edge of discomfort and disruption. Here are her contact details:
    • Twitter: @charleneli
    • Email:


When Opportunity Knocks

When opportunity knocks, answer the door! This seems like simple advice but all too often we do not follow it. Why? Sometimes, we’re just not paying attention. At other times, we see the opportunity but focus more on the possibility of failure than success.

Moroccan Door

Oscar Wilde once said, “A pessimist is somebody who complains about the noise when opportunity knocks.” I’ve never been a pessimist but I will admit to having been a little bit hard of hearing when opportunity knocked on my door at the beginning of 2018. Finally, the noise penetrated and I realized that I could stretch my wings in a new direction by saying yes to the opportunity in front of me.

Given the limits of the 24-hour day, however, when something new gets added, something else must be removed. Unfortunately, one of the things I had to reallocate was the time I usually devoted to blogging. While I understood the trade-off, I missed the writing. And I really missed the interesting conversations with my readers.

And then opportunity knocked again. This time, it was in the form of a request to blog KMWorld Connect — a virtual conference for professionals interested in knowledge management, organizational culture and change, search and taxonomy, text analytics, artificial intelligence, and a host of compelling related topics. I’ve blogged KMWorld conferences in the past but this year will be a departure: a fully virtual learning and networking experience. Undoubtedly, there will be many new things to learn and to report on.

So I’m back to blogging. This week I will focus primarily on sharing the learning from the conference. Next week, I hope to start blogging on a regular schedule. But for now, fasten your seat belts for what I hope will be an informative ride.

Welcome back!

[Photo Credit: Raul Cacho Oses]


KM Guardian or KM Guide?

World_Map_1689What is knowledge management’s core function? Are we to be guardians or guides?

When I started in law firm knowledge management, my role was fairly clear: I was to be a guardian. What does this mean? My job was to gather and guard the intellectual capital of the firm. I was to help filter the useful material from the less useful, put the useful material in a central location, and then provide easy access to it based on the firm’s confidentiality rules and permissions structure. While this was a fair amount of work, it was not hard to grasp. Further, it fit nicely with one of the traditional roles of law firms: gatekeeper of esoteric knowledge. Just as law firms accumulated knowledge of the law and then provided it to clients, I was to provide the same service to the lawyers who were my internal clients. In a sense, I was to be the firm’s gatekeeper of gatekeepers.

In many law firms today, this is still the primary function of their KM personnel. They hunt down or create legal content. They cajole or harass fee-earner colleagues to draft, review and approve materials for the central repository of firm crown jewel documents (e.g., model documents, practice guides, matter process maps, etc.) They tangle with IT in an attempt to create a user-friendly environment for that central repository (e.g., an intranet/portal or even a simple wiki). And once they have some content in this collection, they then need to start the work of finding fee-earning colleagues who will actually keep those materials current and relevant.  On the best of days, being a KM guardian is a sisyphean task.

Being a KM guide is no less time-consuming, but I would suggest that it is far more productive.

What is a KM guide? The role of a KM guide is not that different from a tour guide: identifying the trail, illuminating the path, providing context, enabling fellow travelers to discover and learn from the experience.  The pathways in question here are not physical pathways, but rather pathways to learning and knowledge.  Accordingly, rather than saying “this document contains what you need to know,” we would instead say “this how others in a similar situation found what they needed to know.”

Before you dismiss this as an inefficient, roundabout method, consider the following example. If you come to me looking for information and I hand you something off-the-shelf, generally one of two things will happen: either it will be exactly what you were looking for (and you will thank me profusely) or it will not be what you were looking for (and you will wonder why you wasted your time). This is the experience many people have when they go to their intranet looking for information.

There is also a variant on the second experience that can be profoundly aggravating: they find something that is almost, but not quite, what they were looking for. So they have to reverse engineer it to figure out how much they can salvage and how much they must create from scratch. However, because there rarely are any “reverse engineering instructions” attached to the document, they often have to reinvent the wheel in order to meet their goal. Talk about a colossal waste of time! Yet it goes on every day in organizations around the world.

Now are you ready to consider an alternative?

What if we had a map of the path the earlier traveler took to their destination. You would know that you didn’t need to go as far as they did, but you could follow the map until you reached the point where you had to take a turn onto another road. Obviously, your path on that other road would be beyond the map you were given, so you would have to figure that part out for yourself. However, that would be the ONLY part you would have to create from scratch. For the earlier part of your journey, you would simply have to follow the map rather than creating your own trail (machete in hand) through the undergrowth.

The beautiful thing about working with journey maps rather than destination documents is that these maps show the next traveler where the previous trailblazer was trying to go and how they did it. Then the newcomer can determine how best to plan their own journey. In doing so, they will build on the work of others rather than being forced to reinvent the wheel.

While I have not yet had a chance to test the software, there is a new tool that promises a similar experience by mapping the research path people take through the internet in pursuit of answers to life’s burning questions. Twingl’s Trailblazer is an extension to Chrome that shows what sites you visited and, in the process, reveals something of your thought process. There are several benefits to this approach:

  • You can step away from your research and then return later without having to repeat steps.
  • You can review your map to see where you might have missed something or taken an unproductive turn.
  • You can share your map with others — thereby transferring both the knowledge of where you ended up, as well as how you got there.

Now imagine if we could create similar maps of how the lawyers in our firms arrived at certain judgments, negotiation stances or language in documents. Then we could share within the firm a much deeper and better quality of knowledge — not only what we decided, but how we got there. These knowledge pathways set one lawyer apart from another. Aggregated, they could set one law firm apart from the others.

KM personnel have a role to play here by being KM guides.  A KM guide helps lawyers uncover and map their journey. Then that KM guide can maintain and share those maps. Just as we groom cross-country ski trails,  a KM guide keeps the knowledge trails within an organization accessible, well-tended, free of debris and easy to follow. Over time you will have a collection of overlapping maps that build on the work of earlier generations of lawyers and then extend the collective learning in new directions. What a fantastic outcome for a KM effort!

In an era of disintermediation, it makes less sense to be the guardian of information that often can be found by a variety of means in multiple places. It is more productive to help all the people in your firm rise to a higher point on the learning curve by building systematically on the knowledge maps of colleagues. You can accomplish this by being a KM guide.


[Photo Credit: Wikipedia]



Intranet Ignorance is NOT Bliss – Part 2

Roosevelt and Churchill in conversationA constructive conversation is one that leads to greater understanding. While blogging sometimes feels like a solitary activity, occasionally readers pay a writer the compliment of commenting on her work. Then the conversation begins. When the participants in that conversation are good-natured and well-intended, that conversation can become a constructive one that leads to greater understanding.

Last week I hoped to start a conversation that I believe is long overdue in the legal industry. That conversation concerns how law firms go about deciding to purchase intranet/portal technology. Law firm knowledge management departments often see an intranet as a core part of their offering to the firm. Yet too often the technology is chosen by the IT department and does not always serve the needs of the KM department. Unfortunately, some KM professionals are not aware that there are alternatives readily available in the market, so they cannot engage their It colleagues in a more productive conversation about the relative merits of the various technology offerings.  The result is rarely good for the KM department or the lawyers it serves. Consequently, my assertion was that Intranet Ignorance is NOT Bliss.

My solution to this problem was not to recommend a particular technology solution. Rather it was to urge my law firm KM colleagues to make sure they had done their due diligence to understand fully what the market offers before choosing any product. I closed my blog post by asking my readers to do themselves the favor of exploring alternatives to SharePoint before they make their purchase decision. If SharePoint is the right choice, then they should go ahead with it. If it is not the right choice for them, then they should choose another intranet product.

There is nothing radical about this advice. I would give it to someone contemplating a home purchase, a car purchase or even a toaster purchase. We make better decisions when we have better information. I’m simply asking my law firm colleagues to ensure they have better information.

In the spirit of better information, I am reproducing below two comments I received on my blog post via LinkedIn. Normally I would simply have responded in LinkedIn, but the word limitations there did not permit a thoughtful response. Therefore, I have moved the conversation here:

Comment from Doug Horton, President and CEO, Handshake Software:

Mary, I realized you got paid to review this software but having downloaded and read their SharePoint v. Interact whitepaper, there are many false assumptions in their comparison when viewed in the context of law firms. You know that Handshake Software is the #1 provider of SharePoint products and services to the legal market. You may not know that we have at least one client that is using our software and integrations to create an Intranet without SharePoint. Anyway, I would be happy to discuss offline with you or anyone else.

My response to Doug’s comment:

Doug, thanks very much for reading and commenting on my blog post.

I was asked by Interact to prepare a knowledge management white paper for the legal industry. I was not paid to review their software. My blog post on intranets was intended to start a conversation about right-sizing intranet investments in law firms. The white paper has the same goal. Your comments help by pushing this conversation forward and, for that, I thank you.

You mention in your comments that the company you founded and lead, Handshake Software, “is the #1 provider of SharePoint products and services to the legal market.” I congratulate you on the success of your company. In light of that success, I must note that my economic interest in Interact is infinitesimal in relation to your economic interest as the founder, president  and CEO of a company that continues its Microsoft SharePoint-focused growth in 2015.  Consequently, I was disappointed when you suggested that economic interests would sway me. This seems unfair in light of our relative economic interests.

You mention there were false assumptions in the Interact document to which I linked,  but you did not provide any specifics. That paper cites sources such as Gartner and AIIM. Are you questioning those sources or something else?  I would like to learn more specifics about your concerns. Until then, it is hard to respond to a general allegation. You offered to have an offline conversation on this, and I would welcome that opportunity.

Finally, I am delighted to learn from your comment that you have at least one client that is using your software and integration to create an intranet without SharePoint. Would you be willing to tell me more about that case so that I can feature it in one of my blog posts? The experience of that firm would undoubtedly be instructive for other firms weighing an intranet purchase decision.

– Mary


Comment from Ted Theodoropoulos, President, Acrowire:

Like Doug, I would also challenge the validity of Interact’s assessment of SharePoint. SharePoint doesn’t include workflow and forms? You can’t have a SharePoint environment stood up in weeks? There are no search analytics in SharePoint? All these assertions are completely inaccurate. I would also challenge the assertion that no CIO has been fired for deploying Microsoft products. I know a few legal CIOs personally who were let go for embarking on initiatives in which SharePoint was leveraged for uses in which it is not particularly well suited (i.e. legal DMS).

My response to Ted’s comment:

Ted, thanks for your comments on my blog post.

You noted that you share Doug’s analysis, so I’d invite you to take a look at my response to Doug.

In your comments, you referred to assertions that (i) SharePoint doesn’t include workflow and forms, (ii) you can’t stand up a SharePoint environment in weeks, and (iii) there are no search analytics in SharePoint. I did not make those assertions in my blog post and I did not see those assertions in the Interact document to which I linked from my post. Can you tell me where you found them?

Finally, you stated “I would also challenge the assertion that no CIO has been fired for deploying Microsoft products.” In fact, that was not my claim. I said: “No CIO of a law firm was ever fired for buying Microsoft products.” (emphasis added)  My point was simply that Microsoft is often seen as a safer choice at the purchase stage than smaller, less-established vendors. However, I understand that the Microsoft label will not protect a CIO who has not deployed the software appropriately. Your example proves my understanding to be correct.

Would you be willing to tell me more about the examples you have in mind regarding CIOs who failed to deploy SharePoint properly? In particular, I would be interested in learning about the failed SharePoint-as-DMS examples you mentioned. This topic comes up frequently in law firm KM circles, so it would be good to have more facts at hand about why SharePoint does not deliver as a DMS.

– Mary


As I stated earlier, a constructive conversation is one that leads to greater understanding. It is my hope that Doug, Ted and others in the legal industry will join me in creating this constructive conversation regarding intranets. I know there are some law firms that are happy with their SharePoint deployment. I also know that there are law firms that are not as happy. As we raise everyone’s understanding about intranet technologies and opportunities available in the marketplace, we ensure that people make smarter purchase decisions. Obviously, the implementation is in each purchaser’s hands, but if they correctly make the first critical decision — buying the right software — that should put them miles ahead in terms of implementation, adoption and engagement.

At the end of the day, isn’t that where all of us want to be?


[Photo Credit: Roosevelt and Churchill in conversation (Zorba the Geek) / CC BY-SA 2.0]


Who Needs to Know?

Who_is_it“Who needs to know?”

This is a question we ask often. Unfortunately, it is a question we do not always answer correctly. Sure, we might identify the obvious people, based on our personal experience or knowledge. However, we occasionally forget some key people, and there may be yet others of whom we are completely unaware.

As a result, we share knowledge with the smallest possible group. But that group may not even be the right group. We may explain our approach as well-intended efficiency or even a bid for security. However, at the end of the day, by failing to ensure that information reaches the right people, we have ensured that any decisions we make will be made on the basis of incomplete information.

Is it any wonder so many organizations make so many mistakes?

These are real questions in the context of law firms and law firm knowledge management departments that are trying to thread the needle between firm-wide knowledge sharing and concerns about protecting confidential information. While I do not want to minimize in any way the importance of protecting client-confidential information, I wonder if in our zeal to limit access to information we are actually depriving ourselves and our clients of the ability to make decisions and provide advice based on complete information.

It is instructive to see how another organization faced this challenge of holding knowledge tightly versus sharing it widely.  The organization I have mind plays for stakes that are very high indeed. It is the US military. In his TED talk (posted below), General Stanley McChrystal explains how he came up through the ranks in a security-conscious, need-to-know organization and yet came to understand the importance of sharing knowledge beyond the small group he initially identified as those who need to know. He describes the need for information security as something that was “in the DNA” of the military. He speaks of the organizational silos that served the purpose of ensuring information was kept safely contained.

Despite that security-conscious DNA, General McChrystal came to a startlingly different answer when he asked the question, “Who needs to know?” He discovered that “in a tightly coupled world, that’s very hard to predict. It’s very hard to know who needs to have information and who doesn’t.” So they changed their approach. They started asking “Who doesn’t know, but needs to be told as quickly as possible?” In fact, they went so far as to start knocking down organizational silos physically by having cross-functional teams work together in “situation awareness” rooms in which they could share, discuss and disseminate information quickly.

The results were impressive:

…as we passed that information around, suddenly you find that information is only of value if you give it to people who have the ability to do something with it. The fact that I know something has zero value if I’m not the person who can actually make something better because of it. So as a consequence, what we did was we changed the idea of information, instead of knowledge is power, to one where sharing is power. It was the fundamental shift, not new tactics, not new weapons, not new anything else. It was the idea that we were now part of a team in which information became the essential link between us, not a block between us. [emphasis added]

Admittedly, the army does not serve financial services companies who insist on rigorous data security audits and will withdraw their business if you do not meet their demands. The army does not have clients who refuse to allow any of their information to be shared within the firm even as they expect that they will have the benefit of learning and experience derived from the firm’s other clients. The army does not have owners who have grown up with a need to protect confidentiality that goes beyond professional obligation owed to a client, to cover even the most basic information about the health of the firm.

On the other hand, the army does make life and death decisions on a daily basis. And in this context, the army has learned that if it wishes to have effective teams that make good decisions, it must share information so that information becomes the “essential link” and not a “block” to team effectiveness and good decisionmaking.

Given the army’s example, isn’t it worth thinking harder about how to share knowledge safely and efficiently within law firms? At a minimum, it must mean moving beyond simply asking “Who needs to know?”

[ted id=1992]


[Photo Credit: Wikipedia]